This is a big deal.
The district court (in the person of Judge Edward Lodge of the District of Idaho) has entered partial summary judgment for the plaintiffs in Al-Kidd v. Ashcroft. That’s the statutory and constitutional tort action against the United States and two individuals, a current FBI agent and a former one. In short, the plaintiff, a former terrorism suspect, had argued that the defendants had abused their powers, among other things by falsifying information used to support an arrest warrant. And, as Bobby reported earlier, Magistrate Judge Mikel Williams seemed to side with the plaintiff: he recommended that the district court rule for al-Kidd on a few counts.
Now the district court has adopted Judge Williams’ recommendations wholesale. In particular, Judge Lodge’s order grants summary judgment to the plaintiff, on the latter’s Bivens-based claim that one of the FBI agents deliberately or recklessly had entered false information (or omitted accurate information) on an application for the plaintiff’s arrest. The district court’s order also concludes that the other individual defendant is entitled to qualified immunity—and thus grants that defendant’s motion for summary judgment.
Judge Lodge likewise affirms Judge Williams’ views regarding the plaintiff’s Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”) lawsuit against the United States. The district court determined: that the plaintiff is entitled to summary judgment on his FTCA-based false imprisonment claim; that the United States is not entitled to summary judgment on the basis of prosecutorial immunity, or the FTCA’s discretionary function exception; and, finally, that geniune issues of fact remain, and require a trial on the plaintiff’s FTCA-based abuse of process claim. (The FTCA generally incorporates state tort laws, and exposes the United States to the same liability as a private person in like circumstances.)
What’s this mean? Well, a civil liberties plaintiff seems to have overcome the usual threshold barriers, and won a judgment in a post-9/11 terrorism lawsuit for money damages—if only for the time being. There may yet be a trial on the abuse of process claim; maybe some more appellate review of orders granting summary judgment down the road, too. Stay tuned.